Since it’s been established here, here, and here that terminology matters, it seems worth pointing out the screaming language on the front page of the Washington Examiner yesterday: “Suburban dreams turn into ghettoes.” The headline inside the paper said: “Foreclosure crisis creating suburban slums.”

The story by Bill Myers and David Sherfinski began:

Two years of economic collapse have pockmarked the D.C. region’s affluent suburbs with blight, and experts are worried that the foundering cul-de-sacs and towns are on the verge of becoming the region’s next ghettoes.

Here’s another term – “ghetto” – that gets thrown around far too much, and too casually, in talking about urban (and, in this case, suburban) problems.

Greater Greater Washington looked at the use of the word and its social and racial implications a few months ago; City Desk followed up.

The Examiner story (the main online headline is “Bedroom community blues” instead) referenced dropping home values, falling tax revenues, the high foreclosure rate in some local jurisdictions, and the fact that some – many? it’s unclear – former single-family homes are now being (gasp) rented out. It quoted the president of the Kettering Community Association in Upper Marlboro, Linda Crudup, describing the vandalism of some of those foreclosed properties, in the form of broken windows and doors kicked in. It vaguely spoke of “neighbors who just a few years ago worried about curb height or speed bumps” now finding themselves “fighting to keep drug dealers from setting up shop in boarded-up homes.” The story also cited an increase in homelessness in Prince William and Loudon and noted one Fairfax County district is “littered with hundreds of boarded-up McMansions.”

Those are real problems, to be sure. But they have nothing to do with the term “ghetto,” or the actual thing.

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